Compassion Fatigue

Dr. Charles Figley described the concept of compassion fatigue stating:

We have not been directly exposed to the trauma scene, but we hear the story told with such intensity, or we hear similar stories so often, or we have the gift and curse of extreme empathy and we suffer. We feel the feelings of our clients. We experience their fears. We dream their dreams. Eventually, we lose a certain spark of optimism, humor and hope. We tire. We aren’t sick, but we aren’t ourselves.77

Compassion fatigue is a form of burnout that affects clinicians and caregivers that work with patients who have experienced trauma or who have undergone a great deal of suffering. A clinician may take on their patients’ suffering—leading to physical and mental exhaustion, hopelessness, desensitization, and ultimately, poor bedside manner.78